Audi Q6 e-tron Prototype First Drive Review

Audi takes e-tron to the next level with an all-new platform and cutting-edge innovations.

By Kunal Dsouza Wheels.ca

Aug 1, 2023 5 min. read

Article was updated 2 months ago

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Faroe Islands – Few places on earth can match the rugged beauty of the Faroes, an island archipelago in the North Atlantic about 200 km north of Scotland. Rare sunrays peeking through thick layers of perpetual cloud cover paint the landscape in a vibrant green. Wiry ribbons of road carved into the cliffs straddle the coast and climb up through grass and lichen-covered mountains with bottomless drop-offs and few guardrails.

Being able to drive here is a remarkable experience. It’s eerily quiet. Just like the camouflaged Audi Q6 e-tron that I’m in. Only a few bleats from the many sheep that call the Faroes home disturb the crisp polar air.

A delivery van, one of the few vehicles we encounter on the road, stops when he sees our group. He likes what he sees. “I want one just like this,” he says, pointing at the purple and red wrap covering the Audi. “It’s a prototype, but maybe if you ask nicely,” I tell him with a grin motioning over to the Audi engineers standing beside me.

audi q6 etron prototype

Audi Q6 e-tron prototype

The Faroes are an unlikely place to test a car, but the rules and regulations of driving a prototype meant it was one of the few places a drive like this would have even been possible. Take the word “prototype” here with a grain of salt. These cars are basically complete with just some final testing and fine-tuning left.

The new Q6 e-tron, when it’s revealed later this year will slot in between the Q4 and Q8 e-tron. It’s the first EV from Audi based on the new Premium Platform Electric (PPE), a joint venture between Audi and Porsche. It will also underpin the Porsche Macan EV and the new Audi A6 e-tron.

The Q6 e-tron is larger than a BMW X3 but not as big as a BMW X5 or iX. It will compete directly with the new Mercedes EQE SUV but will probably be cross-shopped with the Tesla Model Y, and Lexus RZ.

PPE uses an 800 V architecture with charging speeds of up to 270 kW. Audi claims the 100 kWh battery pack can regain 250 km of range in just 10 minutes when using a capable DC fast charger. A fully charged battery pack is good for 600 km of range on the European WLTP test cycle. Expect less when it’s subjected to U.S. EPA testing.

New oil-cooled electric motors are less dependent on rare-earth metals and feature hairpin windings for increased energy density. These motors are smaller and also cheaper to make.

Our time was split between the SQ6 e-tron and the less powerful Q6 55 e-tron. Both are dual motor with the primary motive force coming from the rear axle motor. The Q6 55 will produce about 382 hp, while the SQ5 will make 482. They will be quick with the SQ6 able to sprint from 0-100 km/h in 4.5 seconds.

Audi Q6 e-tron prototype

Audi Q6 e-tron prototype

Stitching the islands together are miles of perfectly smooth tarmac and kilometres of undersea tunnels. The tunnels are impressive feats of engineering and boast the world’s only underwater roundabout.

Audi’s goal was to meld its core DNA into the Q6 e-tron. An Audi should be comfortable to drive over long distances but still feel connected and precise without going overboard in any category. All the Audis we drove were equipped with air suspension, which will be available on both models. The ride was controlled and comfortable but that was on smooth Faroese roads. The steering could have been slightly heavier but it delivered more feel than I expected. It was easy to place the Audi on the narrow one-lane roads without bumping into one of the local sheep lurking around the many blind corners.

The brakes were particularly good and felt very natural for an EV. You can lean on the pedal harder now without activating the friction brakes and the transition from regenerative to hydraulic braking was barely perceptible. Drop the transmission into “B” for braking and the SQ6 offers a true one-pedal driving mode. When not using one-pedal, paddles behind the steering wheel can toggle through three levels of regenerative braking.

audi q6 etron prototype

The SQ6 accelerates with enough force to push you back into the seat. Dynamic mode offers instant throttle response and the firmest steering. Both the 55 and SQ6 felt similar in terms of ride and handling and both handled the sinewy Faroese roads exceeding well. These electric crossovers were actually fun to drive. They were also cathedral-silent inside, with almost no electric motor whine even under heavy acceleration, a benefit of those new motors and something Audi is very proud of.

The dashboard was completely covered during our drive and Audi didn’t want us peeking. Only a small section of the driver display was visible, enough to see our speed and range. I averaged 22 kWh per 100 km with the SQ5 and 19.8 kWh with the Q6 55, both good figures for a luxury crossover, especially with temperatures hovering around 9 degrees Celsius.

The Faroes were epic and the new Q6 e-tron, even in prototype form, is easily Audi’s best EV effort yet. We look forward to testing the production-ready Q6 e-tron when it’s revealed later this year.

Next generation lighting

Audi has always been a leader in lighting tech, creating many firsts including LED DRL lighting signatures that are now used by nearly every manufacturer in some form. The new PPE platform allows them to push this concept further than they have before. The daytime running lights on the Q6 e-tron house 61 OLED segments per side for a total of 122 individually controllable segments, each one resembling a tiny polygon. This gives drivers the possibility of choosing from 8 different lighting signatures either through the MMI system or the myAudi app.

Audi Q6 e-tron prototype

The taillights have an animation mode made possible by controlling individual segments and they can generate a new image every 10 milliseconds. Each OLED segment also interacts with each other so that the overall image does not differ in luminous intensity.

These taillights can communicate an accident or hazard ahead to motorists using a warning triangle animation. They can even warn cyclists that the driver is about to open the door and many of these functions will be controlled automatically.

Unfortunately draconian lighting rules in North America, specifically one that mandates “steady burning” of taillights will prevent much of this lighting tech from coming here, which is a bummer.


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